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Full text of "Center of the universe"

THE LIBRARY OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF 

NORTH CAROLINA 

AT CHAPEL HILL 




THE COLLECTION OF 
NORTH CAROLINIANA 

PRESENTED BY 

North Carolinians Society 



C906 
N87s 
no. 42 



Center of the Universe 

Fred Chappell 




FRED CHAPPELL 

Illustration by Dwane Powell, courtesy of The News & Ob sewer 



NORTH CAROUNIANA SOCIETY IMPRINTS 

H. G.Jones, General Editor, Numbers 1A2 



No. 1. An Evening at Monticello: An Essay in Reflection (1978) 

by Edwin M. Gill 

No. 2. The Paul Green I Know (1 978) 

by Elizabeth Lay Green 

No. 3. The Albert Coates I Know (1 979) 

by Gladys Hall Coates 

No. 4. The Sam Ervin I Know (1 980) 

by Jean Conyers Ervin 

No. 5. Sam Ragan (19S1) 

by Neil Morgan 

No. 6. Thomas Wolfe of North Carolina (1982) 

edited by H. G. Jones 

No. 7. Gertrude Sprague Carraway (1982) 

by Sam Ragan 

No. 8. John Fries Blair (1983) 

by Margaret Blair McCuiston 

No. 9. William Clyde Friday and Ida Howell Friday (1984) 

by Georgia Carroll Kyser and William Brandey Aycock 

No. 10. William S Powell, Historian (1985) 

by David Stick and William C. Friday 

No. 1 1 . "Gallantry Unsurpassed" (1 985) 

edited by Archie K. Davis 

No. 12. Mary and Jim Semans, North Carolinians (1986) 

by W. Kenneth Goodson 

No. 13'. The High Water Mark (1986) 

edited by Archie K. Davis 

No. 1 4. Raleigh and Quinn: The Explorer and His Boswell (1 987) 

edited by H. G. Jones 

No. 15. A Half Century in Coastal History (1987) 

by David Stick 

No. 16. Thomas Wolfe at Eighty-seven (1988) 

edited by H. G. Jones 

No. 17 '. A Third of a Century in Senate Cloakrooms (1988) 

by William McWhorter Cochrane 

No. 1 8. The Emma Neat 'Morrison I Know (1 989) 

by Ida Howell Friday 

No. 19. Thomas Wolfe's Composition Books (1990) 

edited by Alice R. Cotten 

No. 20. My Father, Burke Davis (1990) 

by Angela Davis-Gardner 

No. 21. A Half Century with Rare Books (1991) 

by Lawrence F. London 

[Continued on inside back cover] 



Center of the Universe 



by 



Fred Chappell 



Together with Tributes to Fred Chappell on the Occasion of 
His Acceptance of the North Caroliniana Society Award for 2007 

15 May 2007 



Chapel Hill 27514-8890 

NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY^ 

2007 



NORTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY' IMPRINTS 

Number 42 
H. G. Jones, General Editor, Nos. 1-42 



This edition is limited to 

five hundred copies of 

which this is number 



4oU 



Photo Credits: Cover, DWANE POWELL, Courtesy of the News 
& Observer. All other color photos by JERRY W. COTTEN. Black 
and white photos by JAN G. HENSLEY. 



Copyright © 2007 by 

North Caroliniana Society 

UNC Campus Box 3930, Wilson Library 

Chapel Hill, North Caroliniana 27514-8890 

Http:l I www, ncsociety. org 

Email: hg/'ones(a),email. unc. edit 

All rights reserved 

Manufactured in the United States of America 



cqok 

00' *2 



PART I 



Center of the Universe 



by 



Fred Chappell 




Delivered before the North Caroliniana Society 's Members and Friends in 

Elliott University Center, University of North Carolina at Greensboro 

Greensboro, 15 May 2007 







EDITOR'S NOTE 



In the afternoon of Tuesday, 1 5 May 2007, preceding the banquet at which he 
accepted the North Caroliniana Society Award for 2007, Fred Chappell 
amused, charmed, and informed his audience in Cone Auditorium of the 
Elliott University Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 
His address is published in its entirety, along with tributes paid to him by 
fellow literary figures — Kelly Cherry, J. Peder Zane, George Singleton, and 
Marianne Gingher. Chappell thus became the thirty-seventh recipient of the 
North Caroliniana Society Award for extraordinary contributions to North 
Carolina's history, literature, and culture. On the previous page he is shown 
holding the sterling cup representing the award; at left is a photograph of the 
award trophy that is displayed in the North Carolina Collection of the 
University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill. In the photo above, he 
accepts the cup from Willis P. Whichard, president of the Society. The Society 
is grateful to the Friends of the UNCG Libraries for cosponsoring the 
banquet.— H. G. JONES 



Center of the Universe 

Fred Chappell 

It was about 335 BC when Aristotle wrote his famous cosmological 
treatise, De caelo, in which he posited North Carolina as the center of the 
physical universe. There was immediate speculation as to how long it would 
take for the Old North State to be recognized as the literary center of the 
universe and there is still strong debate as to when this recognition finally took 
place. 

The difficulty in determining a precise date for this latter historical 
point stems from a number of complicating factors. Since North Carolina was 
discovered, or invented, by a poet, Sir Walter Raleigh, should not its literary 
ascendance be dated at 1585 AD with the establishment of the Roanoke 
Colony? Or should the date be pushed forward to the twentieth century and 
the unheralded, lightning-bolt appearance of Thomas Wolfe and Look 
Homeward, Angel? Or to the twenty-first and the publication of Charles 
Frazier's Cold Mountain} 

These were signal events, but they are not lonesome promontories; 
rather, they are tall peaks in a landscape which bears the appearance of a long 
range of literary Alps. 

Another problem for the historical dating is that North Carolina is a 
largish state and divided, like Caesar's Gaul, into three parts: the noble 
mountains, the pleasant foothills, and the terra incognita that traverses a terrain 
of swamps and beer joints until rebuffed in its lassitudinous progress by the 
Atlantic Ocean. A number of literary centers have dotted the Carolina map: 
Asheville, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Durham, Wilmington, Benson, Apex, 
Four Oaks, Hillsborough, and Frog Level. It was not until the supremacy of 
Greensboro was acknowledged and its confirmed superiority drew the other 
cities into unwilling but submissive orbits that North Carolina was firmly 
established as the literary capital of the universe. 

That event took place today, May 15, 2007, when the North 
Caroliniana Society generously moved its annual meeting to Greensboro in a 
graceful gesture of obeisance. I would like to assure the Society that 
Greensboro is extremely grateful for this act of kindness and will forever hold 
this unparalleled event in happy memory. 

While we are on the subject of gratitude, please allow me to express 
my personal gratitude to the Society. It is impossible for me to express much 
of all the thankfulness in my heart, but I would like to make it known that it 



4 FRED CHAPPELL 

is palpably there. Of the members of the Society to whom I owe special 
gratitude, I shall mention Messrs. Jan Hensley, Jim Clark, and H. G. 
Jones — these among many, many others. I am grateful to The University of 
North Carolina Greensboro and to my long-suffering colleagues there. For 
forty years I was allowed to make my living in a profession I enjoyed so much 
I felt a little guilty about drawing a salary. But the long-suffering of UNCG 
pales to snowiness compared to that of my sister and brother-in-law, Becky 
and Ed Anderson, and to that of the great champion of patience and tolerance, 
Susan Nicholls Chappell. If they are willing to stand and be thanked, I'd be 
grateful to them once more — and to my son, Heath, and his wife, Patty, also. 

When I say my friends, colleagues, and relatives have been "long- 
suffering," I mean it, for I am no saint — . . . . 

I'm not even a Republican — and only a few short months ago that 
qualification was widely thought to be the first prerequisite of American 
sainthood. 

There are many others also to whom I would like to express my 
appreciative thanks, but your name is Legion and so these expressions will 
have to be made privately. I look forward to doing that. 

Meanwhile, let us return to the subject at hand, the fact of North 
Carolina's universal literary superiority. 

One of the most important dates in the establishment of this datum 
is 1994 when an anthology of poetry called The Eanguage They Speak Is Things to 
Eat appeared. It was edited by Michael McFee and published by The 
University of North Carolina Press and the title of the volume would seem to 
announce, or at least to imply, an awareness of that superiority: 

Not "the language we speak" but "the language they speak is things to 
eat." 

Now, this important anthology did not pursue any sort of separatist 
theme and its title actually is a line taken from a poem that says quite a 
different thing. The poem is by James Applewhite; it is called "Some Words 
for Fall,"^// meaning autumn: 

The tobacco's long put in. Whiffs of it curing 

Are a memory that rustles the sweet gums. 

Pete and Joe paid out, maybe two weeks ago. 

The way their hard hands hook a bottle of Pepsi Cola, 

It always makes me lonesome for something more. 

The language they speak is things to eat. 

Barbeque's smell shines blue in the wind. 

Titles of Nehi Grape, Dr. Pepper, are nailed 

Onto barns, into wood sides silvered and alive, 

Like the color pork turns in heat over ashes. 



CENTER OF THE UNI11ERSE 5 

I wish I could step through the horizon's frame 

Into a hand-hewn dirt-floored room. 

People down home in eastern N.C., 

When they have that unlimited longing, 

Thev smell the packhouse leavings. 

They look at leaves like red enamel paint 

On soft drink signs by the side of the road 

That drunks in desperation have shot full of holes. 

No words they have are enough. 

Sky in rags between riverbank trees 

Pieces the torn banner of a heroic name. 

Instead of celebrating any feeling of superiority over his subject 
matter, the poet actually would like to destroy the invisible partition that 
divides him from it: "I wish I could step through the horizon's frame / Into 
a hand-hewn dirt-floored room." 

But, alas, such a consummation is not to be. History, economics, and 
present circumstance triumphantly conspire to keep poet and subject matter 
in different metaphysical spaces. 

A prominent facet of the problem of this apartness lies in the 
necessities of literary composition: close observation that is both dispassionate 
and impassioned, feelings of sympathy that are tainted by the habits of analysis, 
confidence in expression that is continually undermined by the imperatives of 
self-criticism. 

Our Tar Heel poets have written scores, probably hundreds, of these 
poems shadowed by the sense of separation. Counting on your kind 
indulgence, I shall read another of these, a poem called "Rain light," in which 
the ostensible subject is an episode of waiting for someone in a room of an art 
museum, someone who is late in arriving. It was written by Gibbons Ruark: 

The same room, the same window, only this time 
Darkened against the falling rain. 
You are not here. For a little while I'm 

Happy, given the Four Last Songs again, 
Given a poetry better than my mind, 
An old man walking down a city lane, 

Unwilling to explain but passing kind. 
I take these measures in a kind of calm 
That deepens me until I find 



6 FRED CHAPPELL 

Myself almost believing in the balm 
Imagined in a solitude of pain. 
Almost believing in the old man's palm 

Descending in the air instead of rain. 

The long desire to dwindle down to nothing 

Nearly holding sway, I say your name, 

Your absence rises in me like a song 
Or story I don't know the ending of. 
Opening the curtains, I can't say how long 

I'll sit here waiting for you, 

Watching the paintings shine like windows 

In the sunlight even a rainy day lets through. 

A few months ago, Susan and I attended a gathering of Appalachian 
writers up in Emory, Virginia. It was a lot of fun and lots of nifty people were 
there — -John Lang, who was one of our hosts, John Ehle and his lovely 
Rosemary Harris, Katherine Stripling Byer — oh, lots.... During one of the 
panels, an audience member asked Lee Smith if she ever felt like an outsider 
to the literary scene because of her Appalachian background. Lee replied that 
she'd always felt like an outsider simply because she was a writer. Her words 
reminded me of one of my favorite lines. When someone asked the grand 
Latin American novelist, Jose Luis Dohoso, why he became a writer, he 
answered, "Because I wasn't invited to the party." I have repeated his remark 
many times and once to a friend who said, "Well, I went to that party and 
everybody there seemed as lost and lonesome as me." 

I have begun to wonder if Senor Donoso's sentence isn't just a tad too 
melodramatic. If the writer really is an outsider, maybe it's because she only 
occupies a position somewhat analogous to that of an illegal immigrant who 
is welcomed, or at least tolerated, we are told, because that person will take the 
job no other Americans desire to do. 

I don't know if that description is true of writers in general or only of 
poets. 

But if it is true of writers, I wonder if it might help to account in part 
for North Carolina's dominance of world literature: that there was a largish 
number of us some years back who didn't know any better than to take the job 
nobody else wanted. There are a lot of disadvantages in being a writer, a lot 
of debilitating consequences, but we don't need to talk about those. Most of 
them you can figure out, just by looking at me. 

It helps to keep a time-frame in mind. If we travel our minds back to 



CENTER OF THE UNIl^ERSE 7 

the 1950s, it may seem evident that the reason so few Tar Heels wanted the 
job of being a writer was because it never occurred to them as a reasonable 
possibility. A writer, we thought, was someone who worked for a newspaper, 
or in radio or the new-fangled TV, or who ground out tired phrases for weary 
politicians, or who scribbled snow-banks of secret poems and stuffed them 
into attic shoeboxes. Of course, there were other sorts of writers, those who 
wrote novels, short stories, essays, screenplays, and readable poems, but they 
inhabited a gleaming, vaporish world unreachable from the confines of 
tobacco patch and hayfield, a universe they shared with dragons, unicorns, and 
Betty Grable. 

It may have been the isolation of Tar Heel culture from the larger 
culture that helped to produce individuals whose feelings of personal isolation 
were immoderately enhanced. Young writers at that time wanted to become 
what no one else they knew wanted to become. In a metropolis like New 
York, a sixteen-year-old who admitted to literary ambitions would probablv 
have been derided or teased by his comrades, but they wouldn't necessarily 
consider him lunatic. In Chicago or Los Angeles she might well have been 
encouraged. But in the Carolina packhouse or cornfield that kind of aspirant 
was a lusus naturae, a bit of a freak. 

I won't press this point too far because it falsifies with emphasis. 
When I taught classes in fiction, I used to try to illustrate how a moment of 
acute self- awareness can open to a feeling of isolation. "Imagine that you are 
sent by your parents to visit Aunt Sudie and Uncle Jake at their home in Mare's 
Nest, about 100 miles from your own home. While you are there, Aunt Sudie 
says that she has arranged with her friend Bella for you to escort Bella's niece 
Prudence to a spring dance. Dutifully, you do so. Prudence is pretty and shy 
and you arrive and keep safely within the trace-chains of your best manners. 
The evening wears on, the dancing grows livelier, the chatter of all the 
strangers more animated and ever louder. Suddenly, for no reason you can put 
a name to, you step to the side of the dance floor, look about you, and think, 
What am I doing here? Who are these people? Who am I? — Just at that 
instant, and maybe only for that instant," I told my students, "you have taken 
the stance of a writer." 

I tried out that scenario once too often. One of the numerous 
students of the time who all called themselves "Strider" and who all sat in the 
back of the classroom piped up. "Well, if that's the case," said this particular 
Strider, "I must be a great novelist. I feel that way all the time." 

His sentence rings true. There must be certain moments for all of us 
in which we suddenly feel, reasonably or not, like rank outsiders. I have noted 
it in others upon certain occasions. Young bridesmaids of twelve or thirteen 
or so seem to be enjoying the rituals and festivities and then will suddenly 
withdraw; their gazes turn inward; they clutch their nosegays more tightly. 



8 FRED CHAPPELL 

"What is my place in the scheme of this?" they seem to ask themselves as the 
shadows of doubtful futures steal into their hearts. 

We may notice such flashes of timorous self- awareness in others upon 
other occasions too: among, unathletic, modest young men required to strip 
for a military physical examination; within a person who has been sitting half 
attentive during a sermon until one certain phrase strikes to the center of his 
mind; within someone asked to wait in the hallways of a medical clinic until the 
doctor has read the charts and photographs and returns with a diagnosis. 

So the writer may seem to be speaking egotistically when she remarks 
upon her feeling of separation, of alienation from her fellow citizens, yet she 
probably articulates feelings common to all, though maybe not willingly 
acknowledged by all. "The Soul selects her own Society," Emily Dickinson 
said, and in her single being is a "divine Majority." 

These moments of self- awareness can be so intense as to be shocking 
and the writer must endure the shock of them for hours and days on end when 
engaged in literary composition. There is an ugly danger involved with this 
situation. The divine Majority may turn into an arrogant Tyranny if, after 
selecting her own Society, the Soul shuts the door for good and all, closing 
others out because her sense of superiority to them overmasters her. Then her 
pride shrivels into a foolish, childish, inane vanity and the ministering graces 
of solitude become the supercilious demons of disdain. 

But for most, the latter hazard is no continual temptation. We reach 
out to others; we need to communicate with others, even if the only present 
message we have to bring is that we feel apart from them. In this way, 
isolation can be a pathway to communality. "Are you lonesome, lost, and 
bewildered, brother?" "Yes, brother, I am." "Well, so am I, or I wouldn't 
have thought to ask you. It looks like we are comrades, after all." 

It was by following this line of reasoning that I came to understand 
why poetry is so popular with the reading public, why poetry titles so 
overcrowd the bestseller list, why so many feature films and television series 
are taken from the works of Edwin Arlington Robinson, Emily Dickinson, and 
Michael McFee. It is because there is a great commonwealth of lonelies out 
there and it includes a host of harried, extraordinarily busy soccer moms. 
When we recall Edward Hopper's famous nocturnal painting, "Nighthawks," 
the one that shows a few silent figures taking coffee in a late-night diner, it 
usually takes a moment or two of reflection to realize that the artist has actually 
rendered a crowd scene. There are thousands of us squeezed into that frame, 
but the painter has chosen to represent us as invisible. 

Does the simple act of confessing an awareness of self-conscious 
solitude contain within it a plea for communion with others? Here is a poem 
by Robert Watson titled "Going Nowhere Alone at Night": 



CENTER OF THE UNIT 'ERSE 9 

All houses stand in pools of black. 
A police car's blue roof-eye trails 
Me down this Fall night of drifting 
Leaves. I drift. I drift. It's wrong 
To fall in love so many times, 
So many times. The yellow leaves 
This Fall more beautiful than last. 

They curb me with a siren cry. 
"Destination? Your license please!" 
"Nowhere. I can't sleep." O the stars 
Warm, luminous as... It's wrong 
With half-dressed trees so lovely now 
As you and they were and all are. 
The blue light spins away in leaves. 

Why don't I root myself in bed; 

A black tree in rows, unmoving, 

Of black trees? It's wrong to fall in love 

So many times, so many times. 

Is it really wrong — or is it absolutely necessary? The loneliness of the 
nightwalker has increased his awareness of the love he bears. If it has caused 
him to question the legitimacy or soundness of that love, that is another way 
in which it has increased the intensity of his self- awareness. In avowing love 
for another and by admitting to self-questioning, the poet has decreased some 
of the unhappy distance between him and his subject matter. 

It is difficult to try to determine the metaphysical space the author of 
a poem or story inhabits. If we think of the world of literary discourse as 
being divided, like North Carolina, into three parts with divinity above and 
humanity below, there looks to be a middle area between them in which the 
authorial point of view is lodged. A little below divinity, a little above the 
common ruck of humanity — it is an area we usually think of as being inhabited 
by the Bush family. Or the Kennedys. 

Anyhow, it is a space separate from that of the subject matter and 
from the audience for the work. 

There are poets and fiction writers who have fought to eliminate the 
perceived superior space of the author. Among poets, Walt Whitman, Carl 
Sandburg, Paul Green, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Pablo Neruda, Charles 
Bukowski and others have insisted that they are one with their audience, that 
they lay hands directly upon experience and do not treat it in the manner of the 
more finical scribblers like Henry James and Wallace Stevens. That is a bold 



10 FREDCHAPPELL 

claim and may sometimes lead to a further distancing than does the usual 
approach. In reading Whitman, for instance, one has now and then to resist 
the impulse to say, "Could you back off a little, Walt, honey? Your beard is 
tickling my ear." Sandburg's motives are certainly generous, but his assertion 
of personal intimacy may feel a little presumptuous to shy and maidenly types 
like myself. 

I would hope that to most readers, most audiences, this whole 
question would appear trivial, if not precious. It could come to seem the sort 
of topic a writer or lecturer invented because he could think of nothing 
substantial to bring when it fell his duty to address a meeting of the North 
Caroliniana Society. What is all this distance-and-separation stuff? the listeners must 
wonder. Just sing the song. Just tell the story. 

Poets in America don't often draw hecklers, but in other parts of the 
world, the heckling of a poet is an honorable custom. It happened once that 
I was giving a reading at George Mason University and there was an Irish poet 
in attendance and he had been giving the good Guinness a long pull and when 
I began mumbling my third offering of the evening, he sounded out: "Och, get 
on with it, man! We could hang a priest with less blitheren!" My only response 
was to grin and turn scarlet because his imperative would have to go 
unfulfilled. When I thought ahead to the dozen other pieces I had planned to 
read, I realized that they were all in the same mode, ole Fred talking to himself 
again. 

If I had been properly conversant with Irish poetic protocols at the 
time, I would have thrown a chair at him and all would have been well, the 
evening by his lights considered a roaring success. But in my ignorance, I took 
his complaint seriously and in the ensuing months I began to ponder how one 
might establish a more comradely, less "auctorial" relationship with an 
audience, and I thought it might actually be possible. 

— I am not usually so sanguine about prospects of this sort. I am no 
rosy-lensed, dewy-eyed optimist of Utopian outlook. 

— I'd make a poor-quality Democrat, I reckon. 

There have been writers who managed to establish a close and 
affectionate rapport with a live audience, but the ones I know about mostly 
emphasized the authorial distancing. Charles Dickens was immensely 
successful on the platform, but he came onto a darkened stage, lit the candle 
on a table bare except for his book, carefully removed his formal white gloves, 
and began to intone in his actor's voice. Mark Twain achieved what may be 
called an adorable stage persona, but as he stood there in his white suit and 
with his aureole of silver hair and the celebrated boat-pilot's mustache, nobody 
ever thought of him as Bubba. Carl Sandberg established a close relationship 



CENTER OF THE UNIl^ERSE 1 1 

with his listeners, but he cheated; he carried a guitar. 

I have never threatened anyone in that manner. In the first place, I 
have sufficient crimes on my head without adding a guitar to the indictments. 
And in the real first place, the author's stage persona is not to be identified with 
the author of the work, any more than an actor who portrays John Wilkes 
Booth on stage should be tried for the murder of the President. 

There is a further problem with writers and their stage personae. Most 
of us are not trained actors. We don't know how to project the kind of 
personality we desire an audience to accept. When I try to come on with all 
the majesty of James Earl Jones, folks often think I am trying to impersonate 
Barney Fife. More than once I have accidentally heard my own voice in a 
recording and thought, "Who is that backwater hick and why is he mutilating 
my poem?" 

The ideal state of things would be the removal of the author entirely 
from his or her productions, for the author to disappear, to be absorbed into 
the subject matter, so that the words on the page are not secondhand 
descriptions but reports from the heart of things spoken directly to a listener. 
This is a foolish desire, but it is one that a great, aching number of writers have 
harbored and that many of the more idealistic have striven to achieve. Most 
of us, though, grudgingly bow to the facts of the case. In James Applewhite's 
"Some Words for Fall" the speaker can only wish to step through the horizon's 
frame and enter physically the world of the poem. 

But here is a poem that attempts to depict that ideal situation and, by 
transferring the human element of the author to another, similarly talented, 
animal makes an intriguing, indeed an enticing, case. It is by Randall Jarre 11 
and it is called "The Mockingbird": 

Look one way and the sun is going down, 

Look the other and the moon is rising. 

The sparrow's shadow's longer than the lawn. 

The bats squeak: "Night is here"; the birds cheep: "Day is gone." 

On the willow's highest branch, monopolizing 

Day and night, cheeping, squeaking, soaring, 

The mockingbird is imitating life. 

All day the mockingbird has owned the yard. 

As light first woke the world, the sparrows trooped 

Onto the seedy lawn: the mocking bird 

Chased them off shrieking. Hour by hour, fighting hard 

To make the world his own, he swooped 

On thrushes, thrashers, jays, and chickadees — 

At noon he drove away a big black cat. 



1 2 FRED CHAPPELL 

Now, in the moonlight, he sits there and sings. 

A thrush is singing, then a thrasher, then a jay — 

Then, all at once, a cat begins meowing. 

A mockingbird can imitate anything. 

He imitates the world he drove away 

So well that for a minute, in the moonlight, 

Which one's the mockingbird? which one's the world? 

Such skill in the imitation of life is beyond the compass of most non- 
dramatic poets I know of. It is certainly well beyond my reach. And if I think 
it is beyond the reach of every last one of us, I may well be wrong. I'm not 
infallible, after all. 

— Hey, I'm not even a Libertarian. 

I do remain, however, your faithful friend, ole Fred, and if anyone 
here harbors questions or comments to which I might be able to respond, I'll 
do my best. Thank you. 



PART II 



Tributes to Fred Chappell 



by 

Kelly Cherry 

J. Peder Zane 

George Singleton 

Marianne Gingher 



Delivered at a banquet Honoring Fred Chappell on His Acceptance 

of the North Caroliniana Society Award, Elliott University Center, 

University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 15 May 2007 



Introduction 

James W. Clark, Jr. 



Good evening. The speech Fred Chappell delivered earlier this 
afternoon will be printed in the North Caroliniana Society Imprint due out this fall, 
and those in attendance tonight, as well as all members of the Society, will 
receive a copy by mail. 

What follows now is a little drama we might call "Our Fred." My role 
is that of the stage manager, the person charged with moving the action along. 
The players in "Our Fred" are four distinguished writers selected by Fred 
himself — one from Virginia, one from South Carolina, and two who call North 
Carolina home. What Kelly Cherry, Peder Zane, George Singleton, and 
Marianne Gingher say, in order, about our guest of honor as poet, critic, 
fiction writer, and as teacher, will both introduce them and celebrate him. 

First, though, a few words from Fred himself. Asked by me twenty 
years ago to differentiate between writing prose and writing poetry, he replied: 

The difference between writing prose fiction and poetry is enormous. And 
it's very difficult for me to switch back and forth. In fact, I always notice, or it seems 
to me I always notice, a real physiological change that takes place. When you write 
prose, you're kind of on a bicycle. Prose you think more quickly. But when you write 
poetry, the whole system slows down. You go more slowly, you go more thoughtfully. 
And you have a much nicer day when you write poetry than when you write fiction. 
It's very difficult, and if I really had any advice at all to give the young writers, I would 
say don't write both of them, unless you really feel impelled because I find it difficult, 
and I think it's really not good for the nervous system. 

[The speakers followed in order: Kelly Cherry, J. Peder Zane, George 
Singleton, and Marianne Gingher.] 



Fred Chappell: 
A. Tribute to His Poetry 

Kelly Cherry 

It's an amazing pleasure to be here with you to celebrate Fred and his 
work. He was my poetry teacher some forty years ago, and he remains my 
poetry teacher today. 

Many honors have fallen to Fred Chappell's poetry. A mere few of 
them are the Bollingen Prize, the Aiken Taylor Award, the Roanoke-Chowan 
Prize (multiple times), the T. S. Eliot Award, and even — I mention it for the 
sake of surprise — the Mihai Eminescu Medal from the Republic of Moldovo. 
Today another honor attends his work. Indeed, his poetry is so widely 
esteemed that someone who doesn't know his work might be tempted to ask, 
Is Fred Chappell really that good? 

All of us here already know the answer to that, but let me nevertheless 
speak to this benighted hypothetical questioner. 

In high school he wrote poetry and fiction, much of it buried or 
burned before he headed off to Duke, where he studied with the now- famous 
William Blackburn. His first published books were three magnificent short 
novels, the first one written when he was, I think, twenty-two or -three, and 
he had finished a fourth. Then one day, at the Pickwick, a defunct but still 
legendary bar, he mentioned that, after years of fiction, he was writing poems 
again and "loving it." On that or another day, he also recounted a hilarious 
story about a Southern mule, one of many country stories he could call up. My 
husband asked him why he didn't include homegrown stories like this one in 
his work. He answered that he was trying to figure out how to bring his rural 
tales of a childhood in Canton into his work without the work becoming an 
echo or pale imitation of Faulkner. This is a problem that has bollixed many 
contemporary Southern writers. Who can forget Flannery O'Connor's 
pointing out that you don't want to be stalled on the tracks when the Dixie 
Limited comes through? Fred's first solution was to embed his rural tales in 
poetry. In 1971 he published The W / orld Between the Eyes, a collection of poems 
that made it clear he was no dilettante in the genre and no wannabe. He has 
called poetry "the noblest secular endeavor that the mind undertakes." In 
other words, one — certainly not Fred — does not write poetry for the sake of 
the honors or riches that may come one's way. "Phoo," he writes in a poem 
titled "Gold and Mean," 



16 FRED CHAPPELL 

. . .Let me be broke flat. 
If possible, in debt. 
I'll go about without a hat. 
I'll get the better of you yet. 

When, in the poem "The Farm," he speaks of "[ t]he world, locked 
bone," we understand that the world between the eyes is not limited to the 
poet's interest in his own mind but includes everything he can perceive, 
deduce, experience, learn, imagine, and remember. And since he has already, 
still on the farm, discovered books, this world will include a history of culture, 
a wealth of ideas. "That decade with Rimbaud," he will say later, in his 
tetralogy, Midquest, "I don't regret ("Rimbaud Fire Letter to Jim Applewhite"), 
but he has left it behind. He is no longer interested in deranging his senses. 

With hindsight we can say that The World Between the Eyes anticipated 
Midquest, that glorious work, comprising the books River, Bloodfire, Wind 
Mountain, and Earths/eep, central to the Chappell canon. World's title poem, in 
particular, introduces threads with which Fred will stitch together what he has 
called his "sampler." A "lonely" country boy daydreams his future life as a 
"[m]an of the boring world": 

He dangles his cigarette and his dangerous charm. 
"Ah, Comtesse, it's all too apparent, 
you know little of the ways of the Hindoo;" . . . 

The boy has, perhaps, read a few too many books, but what is remarkable about 
him is that he holds "[a] whole society in his head." Moreover, the poem 
alludes to the four elements of the ancient Greek world, and, a mere four years 
later, we have River, the first of the four books of Midquest. 

From phrasing to punctuation, from rhyme to reason, a poet must 
attend to many things while writing a poem. Here are some of the other things 
Fred attends to in his poetry, splendidly: detail, image, rhythm, lineation, 
metaphor, simile, narrative or implied narrative, lyricism, drama, voice, tone, 
wit, sensory information, syntax, stanzaic construction, ''''cadence, closure, and 
transition" ("First Night Come Round Again," in A. Way of Happening: 
Observations of Contemporary Poetry), the movement of mind amongst the parts to 
the whole, and speaking of the whole, form, even if the poem is free-form. 
Most of us aren't smart enough or talented enough to keep allot that in mind; 
Fred is. But that is not all. The poet must have taken a good hard look at the 
history of poetry and must, while remembering that history, be simultaneously 
aware of how the bits and pieces of his own poem resonate with and respond 
to other poems, or strike out in new directions, or even, with purpose, repeat. 
As Fred writes, "In order to have adequate bases for comparison as a 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 1 7 

practicing poet, you have to know all poetry" (also in "First Night Come 
Round Again"). Then, to top things off, Fred adds to the mix a dimension 
often lacking in contemporary poetry: characterization. 

For example, in River we meet the grandmother of the family 
portrayed in Midquest. As she washes the cans in the milkhouse, she tells her 
grandson, Fred, about the young men who used to come a-courting. "Of 
course," she says, "it wasn't hard to pick Frank out," 

The straightest-standing man I ever saw. 
Had a waxed moustache and a chestnut mare. 
Before I'd give my say I made him cut 
That moustache off. I didn't relish kissing 
A briar patch. 

(from "My Grandmother Washes Her Vessels") 

In Midquest as in real life, Fred is married to Susan. In the poem he 
can speak for her, as when he slyly has her say, in Wind Mountain, "I wish I 
weren't a writer's wife. / I'd live as harmless as a leaf / And cuddle up in a dear 
warm life." In real life, Susan speaks for herself. In the poem she is, in one 
aspect, an incarnation of perfect love, as is Dante's beloved Beatrice. (And for 
Fred, she is that in real life too.) 

The character Virgil Campbell is both the town drunk and a Dantean 
guide to and through hell. These and other characters are vivid and intimately 
known, their lives and sensibilities conveyed by speech, detail, and action. 

In Midquest, Fred looks back on the life he has lived to that point, a life 
that has been, like all lives, lived in relation to others: parents, grandparents, 
friends and colleagues and townspeople. Those other lives contribute their 
own textures to the text of the poem. The young boy who had "[a] whole 
society in his head" has transferred it to the page, where it will be refigured in 
readers' minds for many years to come. The rhythms of daily life and country 
talk are finely observed and conveyed. Future readers will be able to live in 
Appalachian North Carolina even if it disappears. Fred does not sound like 
Faulkner, or O'Connor or Eudora Welty or Thomas Wolfe, because he sounds 
like Fred. The lines and sentences are inflected with knowledge, experience, 
and a temper of mind that are unmistakably his. Yet, like Faulkner, he has 
rendered his local territory into universality because his characters are, above 
all, human. We find something of ourselves in all the characters of Midquest. 

What we receive, then, when we read the poem, is the presentation of 
emotion philosophically considered. The poem leads us to reflect upon the 
meaning of life in general, and the meaning of our lives in particular. That is 
to say, another quality Fred brings to the poem is his blazing, analytic 
intelligence. 



18 FREDCHAPPELL 

Maybe, after finishing Midquest, Fred wanted to write a poem at first 
glance as opposite to it as possible. His book-length poem Castle T^ingal takes 
us inside a ruined medieval realm haunted by the songs of a severed head. The 
king is mad, the queen melancholy, the admiral frightened and nostalgic, the 
royal astrologer a cynic, and a homunculus — eighteen inches tall and at home 
in a bottle — brings down the whole shebang. The narrative is riveting, the 
language ravishing. The poem seems to tell us that without art, without poetry, 
there can be no society at all, no civilization. Thematically, it is not opposite 
to but the obverse of Midquest, which shows us that in any society, any 
civilization, there will always be art. 

Source continues the theme of transformation Castle T^ingal had 
dramatized. Both Source and the next collection, First and East Words, continue 
Castle's rich diction. A coquettish cow "toss[es] the silky string / of lucid snot 
pearly from chin to knees / like a Charleston necklace" ("Awakening to 
Music"). Night brings "a row / Of orderly stars like punctures in a vein" 
("Score"). Dogs sleeping on a porch are "warm spotted lumps of doze and 
quiver" ("Dipperful"). In "Webern's Mountain," the composer, seeking to 
reach the creative heights he knows he was born to, must acknowledge the 
"cello strings dying under the tank treads." The redoubtable animals of The 
Wind in the Willows arrive at slow old age and settle in, except for Toad, who 
"has taken up / Hang gliding — as a sort of hobby" ("Years Afterward"). A 
poem titled "Observers," which trades in relativity and quantum mechanics, 
attracts us with its wit and then shocks us as it becomes a reminder of 
Nagasaki. These stunningly beautiful books examine the sometimes seemingly 
alchemical connections between art and life, life and death, death and 
transfiguration. 

The fabulous range of Fred's work has continued to expand, fabulosity 
upon fabulosity. His book C favors the reader with a hundred shortpoems that 
are variously observations, retorts, wisecracks, riddles, caveats, and 
celebrations. In one, "Susan is painting her nails / such a brilliant shade of 
bright / she seems to have sprouted 22 fingers ("LXI"). In another, he parses 
for us three types of love stories: 

The story of lovers torn apart by war is a thousand pages long. 

The story of lovers whom money separates fills all the stiff ledgers of 

Europe. 
By the light of a single candle I read the tale of lovers grown old together, 

climbing faithfully to the darkened landing of the stairway. 

("The Stories") 

More recently Fred has published Family Gathering, a charming, 
disarming collection of poems about an extended family. The book is framed 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 1 9 

by poems about Elizabeth, an eight-year-old so accurately depicted that anyone 
who has ever been eight will recognize herself or even himself in her. The 
speaker of the poems understands her fears, cherishes her innocence, 
welcomes her inquisitive mind, and holds her in his thoughts as if he could lift 
her from the page and croon her to sleep. The older members of the family 
take some pointed jabs, but in a warm, family-gathering way. 

Fred's knowledge of Latin and classical literature has been a sturdy 
foundation for his work, nearly as important as the farm on which he grew up. 
His most recent book, Backsass, reinvigorates the ancient Roman tradition of 
a no-holds-barred conversation among poets who comment on almost 
anything: political agendas, literary catfights, and — those Romans rarely 
blushed — sexual habits. Satire helps us to see what is wrong in the world and, 
thereby, implies how the world might be improved. We must note that even 
Fred's satirical verse finds ways to make the world, good or bad, good and bad, 
come alive. Where, in all the history of poetry, has there been another poet 
who could describe the approach of dawn as "the delicate clipclop / of 
cheerful Aurora on her little gray burro" ("Resolution and Independence")? 

In fact, in Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems, published in 1 995, Fred 
had already shown us what a truly civilized world might look like: a carefully 
tended garden, with plantings of varieties of poems in various places, Susan 
with her watering can. In this garden, "cabbages unfurl / outward and inward 
like sentences of Proust ("Susan's Morning Dream of Her Garden"), but 
special regard is given to "herbs that urge to love / . . . for love's the serious 
matter / We play upon in our enchanted grove" (untitled introductory poem 
to "In the Garden"). 

For Spring Garden, Fred wrote an abundance of new poems, which, if 
printed separately, would make a whole other book. Taking his cue from a 
poem by Renaissance poet Pierre Ronsard, he has arranged the book as a 
horticultural design, bringing ideas of order, balance, variety of parts, 
connection and continuity, and overview to the landscape in which his work 
has grown and, by extension, to his understanding of the world. 

As a relatively late book, Spring Garden is pensively aware of the 
passage of time. The little gray burro blurs in the distance. I believe that all 
serious poets are, from the get-go, acutely attuned to the silence that awaits us 
in the wings, are haunted by it, and write or speak their poems in the urgency 
of it. (A poet who sustains his faith in poetry must be ceaselessly creative and, 
at least to a degree, able to joke about the situation. Dante, with the 
reassurance of Heaven, wrote, after all, a comedy. Midquestis a comedy, too, as 
are the corresponding four novels with which Fred followed it up, as is Spring 
Garden. We speak here of comedy as alleviation and lightness, as perspective 
and sound sense.) Great poems inhabit silence and illumine darkness, making 
the ordinary pleasures of our lives as remarkable as miracles. 



20 FRED CHAPPELL 

Fred's poetry sings. His genius is luminous. 

Fred hates it when people brag or puff themselves up, and I can 
imagine how embarrassed he feels right now. But I want to say one more 
embarrassing, true thing, to the hypothetical questioner who asked if Fred's 
work really deserves all the honors. Though I don't know as much poetry as 
Fred does, I read a lot of it, and recently I reread all of his. Do that and it 
becomes clear, really crystal clear, that the quality, quantity, range, and effect 
of his poetry are the accomplishment of greatness. He is a poet who will be 
welcome on Parnassus. Honors are due, every honor is due, and more than 
that, a certain, actual awe. 



Fred Chappell and the Critic's Spirit 



J. Peder Zane 

Fred Chappell presented my first real problem as The Neil's <& 
Observer's Book Review Editor a decade ago. 

Everything had been peaches and cream — reviews came in, I 
discussed problems and questions with the critics, sent pieces back for 
rewrites, made changes in the text. Then Fred filed his first review — of a 
debut novel by a local writer. It began: 

Every once in a long while I wish I were a big-shot literary critic instead of 
a humbly persistent reviewer. The critic is given latitude to analyze 
minutely and propound broadly; space and leisure abound. A reviewer 
writes to hair's-breadth deadlines and is not generally taken seriously when 
his prose includes adjectives like "enduring," "important" or 
"magnificent." Such superlatives are expected to carry the imprimatur of 
the more heavily lauded commentator. 

Nevertheless, I feel the need to overstep these informal boundaries in 
regard to Charles Frazier's first novel, "Cold Mountain." 

And so the review continued, a tour de force of plainspoken 
eloquence, insight and clarity. It was also a huge problem. What to do? I 
puzzled. What to edit? The man wasn't letting me do my job! 

I got over it, eventually — and never reported Fred to the union! 
Instead I used his work as my model for ever} 7 piece I edited, every column 
I wrote. The quality of his first drafts became the final goal for every other 
piece. 

The highest compliment you can pay a baseball player is to call him 
a five-tool player: It means he excels at all the aspects of the game. 

We don't have a similar term for the complete writer — perhaps 
because there are so few of them. Fred is a five-tool writer: He can write 
novels, poems, short stories, essays and reviews. He has mastered each of 
these forms, their very different techniques. Like a musician who is a 
virtuoso on every instrument in the orchestra — and who can also sing like 
Pavarotti — Fred's command of style allows him to pick the right mode of 
expression for his thoughts and dreams. 



22 FRED CHAPPELL 

Fred wrote scores of reviews for me, as the N&O poetry 
columnist, and as the critic I turned to to help readers understand the 
accomplishments and pleasures of literary giants — The Iliad, Anna Karenina, 
and Don Quixote, the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and Anton 
Chekhov. 

His pieces were marvels of accessible erudition. Fred's review of a 
Library of America volume of Henry James' stories, for example, opened 
with three rich paragraphs offering a penetrating overview of the author's 
accomplishments and his influence on writers from W. D. Howells and 
Edith Wharton to Peter Taylor and Louis Auchinchloss. In the fourth 
paragraph Fred wrote, "He Qames] was born in New York City in 1845 into 
a cultured and talented family," and proceeded to provide a snapshot of the 
writer's time and place. 

What struck me was Fred's awareness of his audience — the reader 
of a Sunday newspaper interested in a sophisticated discussion of a great 
American writer, but without a fresh memory of his life and background. 
That anchoring paragraph came just when the general reader needed 
it — and Fred knew that. That is mastery of form. 

Fred's N&O poetry column provided a similar service. As he 
reviewed the works in question he respectfully grounded readers in the 
techniques of the form. While helping readers identify poets they ought to 
read, he also provided short courses in how to read poetry. Such advice is 
especially necessary now that so many people have lost that skill and back 
away from poems they try to read because they "don't get" them. How 
reassuring then to have a poet of Fred's stature say he sometimes feels the 
same way — and that it's really beside the point. In a review of David 
Rigsbee's collection, "The Dissolving Island," Fred wrote: 

I think I would assent to the central idea of the poem — that true 
happiness can be known and remembered only when it has been 
tested — if I were sure that I had got it right. The fact that I am unsure 
does not prevent my enjoyment of "Rip." To meditate upon its three 
well-wrought stanzas leads to other ideas about time: that if it is 
disregarded, it does not pass; that innocence may be a protection not of, 
but against, happiness. 

For some of Rigsbee's work, mystery adds not only tone and atmosphere 
but also real power. Is the "dissolving island" of the tide poem, the 
submerging, fabled Atlantis or another place unknown till now? Or is it 
an allegory about the dissolution of memory as years go by, or about the 
disappearance of the intolerably vulnerable present moment? The poem 
works as drama, no matter what interpretation is preferred, and that is the 
seal of success. 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 23 

Because the audience was different, Fred took a different approach 
in his pieces for more specialized publications such as the Georgia Review. 
Addressing aficionados and practitioners, he often offered line by line 
readings of specific poems in broadly themes pieces — "One Upon a Time: 
Narrative Poetry Returns?," "An Idiom of Uncertainty: Southern Poetry 
Now" — that identified trends and issues that for learned people who have 
not read as widely or thought as deeply as he. 

A collection of these pieces, titled "A Way of Happening: 
Observations of Contemporary Poetry," should be required reading for 
every aspiring critic. I must confess: I was unfamiliar with many of the 
poets Fred discusses. And yet, his pieces captivated me. 

They still pulse because they are imbued with qualities that Fred 
found in the work of another great critic and dear friend, Randall Jarrell: A 
"gift for appreciation," Fred wrote, that is "informed, thoughtful and often 
highly enthusiastic" but also balanced. 

Fred's criticism endures because it's about more than the works or 
issues discussed; it's about the spirit of its creator who cares enough about 
someone else's work to pay attention to it, to take it seriously; to invest 
himself in the it and extend to it the ultimate form of respect: his best 
effort. 

As Fred wrote of H.P. Lovecraft: "Lovecraft took his art seriously; 
that made all the difference." 

I'll chalk 90 percent of Fred success to talent. DNA was good to 
him. There you have it . But the other 10 percent — how Fred has used 
those gifts — is just as important. It suggests the good man behind the great 
writer. 

Consider the first line of Fred's Cold Mountain review: "Ever} 7 once 
in a long while I wish I were a big-shot literary critic instead of a humbly 
persistent reviewer." 

Fred is a first rate critic but he is not a big shot in the striving New 
Yorker sense of the term. I have no doubt that, had he wanted to, Fred 
could have been. But he made other choices. 

Instead of concentrating on "big books" — high profile novels by 
celebrated writers — he focused on poetry. And, within that sadly 
marginalized form, he devoted his gifts, more often than not, on Southern, 
and, more specifically, North Carolina, writers. 

In his farewell poetry column for The News <& Observer on June 25, 
2006, Fred explained this choice: 

During the many years I wrote this long series of reviews, I gave most 
attention to Tar Heel poets or to poets who have been closely connected 
to our state .... 



24 FRED CHAPPELL 

If my purpose has been openly partisan, to observe and call attention to 
North Carolina poetry, it has not been dishonest. I detest boosterism and 
have praised work only when I thought it solid. ... So I am able to aver 
with a clear conscience that poets like James Applewhite and Peter 
Makuck, Betty Adcock and Eleanor Ross Taylor stand shoulder to 
shoulder with the best in the country. 

In a 1998 piece he was a little more direct: 

I am not really a literary partisan. When someone asks me what 
distinguishes Southern writing from other American writing, I can reply, 
with smiling serenity, "It is better than the rest," because I think a fair 
examination of the books will bear me out. 

One doesn't need a poet's knowledge of human nature to 
appreciate the generosity of that project. It's easy for members of a 
marginalized group — much less three marginalized groups: poets, Southern 
poets, North Carolina poets — to believe there's only one small pie with 
their name on it and that every slice or crumb that goes to another, means 
one less slice or crumb for themselves. 

Fred, instead, championed his rivals for attention — an act far easier 
to praise than to undertake. 

It is this sense of service — to the word, to the craft, to other 
writers, to his students — that impresses me the most about Fred. Often 
he'd file a piece so fine I'd think, why is he writing this for us? Then I 
remember: Because that's who he is. 



Beware o/Br'er Fred 

George Singleton 

When first asked if I would like to participate in a Fred Chappell 
extravaganza- — a night to honor Fred's contributions to fiction, poetry, 
criticism, opera, oenology, boxing, baseball, blues music, domesticated 
felines, and teaching — it might've taken me about half a nanosecond to 
respond, "I'd be honored." Professor James Clark told me that Fred had 
mentioned my name for such an occasion. I said, "Well that makes me feel 
doubly humbled." 

"You'll be talking about his fiction," the professor said. Somewhere 
between the lines I heard in his voice, "And you will do it right, son." 

I hung up the telephone and thought, This is some kind of trick. 
Fred's playing on me — he knows that I'm no scholar. Fred knows that I 
would rather spend a day watching my favorite Case knife rust than try to 
conjure up speculations as to why a novelist and short story writer offers up 
a certain image, a certain turn in plot, a range of fantastic symbols that 
might cure what ails Appalachia, the South, America, or the world as we 
know it. 

What new could I say? Intellectuals have written ably about Fred's 
ear for dialogue and idiom. Who else can come up with such turns of 
phrase as "Apex is a small hot, flat town, a pimple on the belly of North 
Carolina," or "I wouldn't ride with you to a dog fight, the way you act," or 
"He's as mean as a snake with the toothache"? Then there's "He was as 
tough and warped as a first-growth hickory," and "Selma had been a slow 
mournful girl with all the cheering aspect of a black shroud," and ". . . as if 
she had been constructed of soggy newsprint and left to harden." 
Characters have a choice of either a "mild spring-scallion type of profanity," 
or "raw, hot Spanish-onion oaths that have lately become so common a part 
of discourse." Each page in every piece of prose offers up a description or 
snatch of conversation that makes normal writers get up from their chairs 
and bang their heads against the nearest wall. Fred Chappell's world is 
made up of characters with the "free-will of a doorknob" and "the 
personality 7 of a buzz saw." For me to even consider weighing in on this 
particular oracle's expertise in the realm of the vernacular would be on par 
with my ability to deconstruct the high points and pitfalls of this year's Paris 
fashions. 



26 FRED CHAPPELL 

I considered turning toward something more opaque and likely 
ineffable — about Mr. Chappell's ability to show us how the human heart is 
supposed to beat, about the fiction of forgiveness. But, again, entire 
dissertations have been typed up neatly and published so that the rest of us 
can consider how we know next to nothing about how we're supposed to 
relate to one another. I thought about mentioning how — even though he 
burned down his grandparents' house by sneaking a cigarette at the age of 
nine — James Christopher was forgiven by his father David in It Is Time, 
Lord. There's the way readers forgive Jan for killing his witless, buffoonish 
Uncle Hake in The Inkling, and how James Parker McClellan, a.k.a. Arkie, 
forgives Clemmie the streetwalker when she dismisses him continually in 
The Gaudy Place. There's the way the Kirkmans unofficially adopt Johnson 
Gibbs in J A.m One of You Forever — echoed in subsequent novels — and the 
joy and heartache such an action brings. With each novel or collection of 
stories Fred Chappell lets us know that there's hope, and I would've liked to 
have expounded on this notion but, again, the bastard scholars beat me to 
it. 

Furthermore, everyone's written about Fred's lyric narrative 
prowess. They've noted how his region that envelops the Jess Kirkman 
tetralogy rivals Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. Better men and women 
have commented on Fred Chappell's knowledge and use of myth, of 
zodiacal truths, and of supernatural communicative bovid ruminants. Full- 
fledged tenured professors have spun well-researched tales concerning Mr. 
Chappell's visionary magical realism, coupled with how, evidently, Miguel 
de Cervantes came back to life and anointed Chappell our perfect 
practitioner of the picaresque. 

So to say the least, I felt troubled and peckish and ornery. I didn't 
want to stand in front of this audience and present only a mishmash of the 
catalogued, chronicled, evident, and obvious. So I started thinking about 
everything that Fred threw at me, and which stuck fiercest. One answer 
stood out: Tricks. Practical jokes. Rusties. Windies. 

I would like to be considered the first person to reveal to the world 
that, although Fred's been signing his name "ole Fred" since 1963, he, 
indeed, should be addressed as "young Fred." I want to make it clear that 
young Fred stays young because his characters, forever — like rascally 
schoolboys — work nonstop when "those in power" deserve a dose of 
comeuppance. 

Consider Arkie secretly freezing his index finger in ice water before 
challenging that rutabaga monger to a pain test in regards to letting lit 
cigarettes burn down the length of their digits. Think about how Arkie, too, 
kept in his wallet that lucky dollar bill with six sixes in the serial number, 
awaiting a game of liar's poker. 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 27 

In Brighten the Corner Where You Are, Joe Robert Kirkman — not two 
pages into the novel — imagines how he can capture a possum, then get back 
home and put it in his strict-souled mother-in-law's oven, seeing as she 
needed something to think about. This is the same Joe Robert Kirkman 
who, once tabbed the acting principal of the schoolhouse, told all of his 
teachers that a "mysterious and utterly rotten kid," the "Ungodly Terror," 
was in their midst, slipping garter snakes into desk drawers on the very first 
day of school. Oh, the teachers kept a look-out for this phantom scug, and 
just about the time things settled down, Joe Robert would explode 
firecrackers in lockers, paint doorknobs with kerosene, fling handfuls of ball 
bearings into classrooms. He filled his own teachers' desk drawers with 
oatmeal and their restrooms with toads. He wrote insults on the walls and 
was "relendess in carrying out every naughty schoolboy fantasy he could 
remember." 

In I Am One of You Forever, Joe Robert's son Jess Kirkman is drawn 
into a rusty when his father decides to extract the deluxe wrapped chocolate 
candies from their foil wrappers and replace them with thumb-sized pullet 
eggs, so that Jess's grandmother's Bible Circle might enjoy them. In Took 
Back All the Green Valley, Cora Kirkman recalls how while on a European 
excursion, the tour guide didn't show up. On the bus ride, Joe Robert 
decides to act as one knowledgeable in local color and history, and regales 
the trapped tourists with stories of "Due Phillippe of the Ugly Ankles and 
the unlucky queen Matilde Who Had No Butt." 

Some of the practical jokes work spontaneously; others take 
patience and timing. In The Inkling, Jan breeds mice in four crude cages, 
then, finally, lures school yard bully Root Hughes over to his house with a 
promise to show him a rare and legendary spider — "a big white furry spider 
with three eyes" that ate with its legs. Jan has to keep it inside a shiny 
cylinder, for it moves quick as a flash, and so on. When Root and Jan 
finally get to the barn, Jan directs Root to scrunch inside the middle 
compartment of a three-lidded, tri-sectioned trough. He tells Root he can 
open up the cylinder once he's inside, that they don't want to take a chance 
of this rare spider scurrying off. After making threats and accusations, Root 
Hughes climbs in. Jan secures the lid with a tight peg. Then he fetches the 
mice and pours them into the adjacent compartments, along with food, the 
keek keek keerk and scratching so terrifying that when poor Root gets out of 
his predicament, he soils himself. When Root finally gets to the road, Jan 
calls out, "I bet your mama's really going to lay into you when you get 
home. . . It's already way past suppertime." 

There are hundreds of these scenes, but I believe that Fred 
probably gets more fun having his characters jape those who profess a 
holier vocation. In Took Back All the Green Valley, Joe Robert Kirkman 



28 FRED CHAPPELL 

sends a letter to six clergymen and promises that he'll donate a good 
each to their congregations if they'll meet him one Saturday at Virgil 
Campbell's Bound for Hell Gro. and agree to one answer. These hard-shell 
preachers, drawn to the word "profitable" in Kirkman's summons, all show 
up early. When Joe Robert arrives he spells it out: He's visited all of their 
houses of prayer, and he's noted that each of them has specified a different 
prophecy for the end of the world. One minister speculates that it'll occur 
on July 20, 2000. The others have it down to 2010, 1985, 1999, and 1988. 
One Reverend Butloe, through verses and hidden mathematic equations 
tucked inside the Old Testament, has the world already ended in 1 883. 

"The problem I have as a businessman with a little money to 
invest," Joe Robert says, "is that I am all confused. I need to make a long- 
term investment or two to take care of my children and grandchildren and 
to make sure we don't lose our farm out of the family to taxes or bad times. 
So I need to know exacdy when the world is going to end." He asks the 
preachers to get on their knees and pray together, to read their Bibles and 
consult the highest authorities — "and then arrive at an agreed-upon date 
among you when the world will end.. . . I need the year, the month, the day, 
and, if possible, the very hour." That done, Joe Robert promises, he'll 
divide twelve-hundred dollars between them evenly. 

After a spell of not hearing back from the ministers, Joe Robert 
sends word that he's learned through a radio preacher that the world is 
going to end in 1975, and that he — Joe Robert Kirkman — would be asking 
banker Bob Brendan to move all of his investment capital into a sure-fire 
winner. It doesn't take long for Bob Brendan to call Joe Robert and ask 
what gives, seeing that all these Holy Roller preachers scattered around 
Harwood County have been asking where Joe Robert plans to invest. They 
offer bribes. Thev ask for secrecy, et cetera. By the end of the ruse, the 
preachers actually send money in plain brown envelopes to a post office 
address set up by Kirkman, wanting in on the no risk stock. In turn, he 
sends them flyers for his sure-fire pick: Satanic Enterprises's Amalgamated. 
And although he sends back the money after claiming Satanic Enterprises' 
sudden bankruptcy, Joe Robert includes sympathy cards with "The wages of 
sin is death" written inside. 

So this is the practical-) oking world of young Fred Chappell's 
fiction. I won't even go into how a poetic alter ego character named Fred 
Chappell shows up at times. If I were a scholar, I might connect how Fred 
was brought up in the mountain community of Canton, North Carolina, in 
the heart of the Cherokee nation. Rabbit, the Trickster, plays a prominent 
role in Cherokee myths, legends, and tales. I believe some of those stories 
might have rubbed off on Fred, and that he naturally received the tradition. 
Perhaps he should be no longer tabbed ole Fred or young Fred, but Br'er 



CENTER OF THE UNIl^ERSE 29 

Fred. What matters is this: I feel fortunate that he passes the trickster 
tradition down to the writers he tutors, keeping us all from banging our 
heads to the wall, awe-struck by his horripilative virtuosity. 



Ok Fred, Teacher for Fife 

Marianne Gingher 

1969. I'm editor of my college literary magazine at Salem College 
in Winston-Salem. I'm reading poetry like a fiend and writing it like one. 
All my poems sound like Gerard Manley Hopkins on crack cocaine. My 
friend Carilee writes poetry, too, but her poems are mellower than mine 
because she's been taking a poetry writing class with a young visiting writer, 
Robert Morgan, who's just fresh from studying with Fred Chappell at 
UNC-Greensboro. It's Robert Morgan, Fred's earliest protege, who tells 
her about a writing contest sponsored by the Corradi literary magazine at 
UNCG, and both of us enter our poems. We don't win prizes, but the 
editor prints a poem by each of us in the Literary Festival issue and invites 
us to a celebration banquet. 

I'm driving a little Opel GT two-seater sports car and it's a spring 
evening when we set out, wind in our hair, John Lennon and the Plastic 
Ono Band on the radio singing "Give Peace a Chance." Behind us, folded 
up in the rumble seat is Robert Morgan himself who needed a ride. He's 
skinny and as awkward as a pile of coat hangers, wears a scarecrow's flannel 
shirt, and seems colossally shy, but when one of us asks who his poetry 
teacher was, he brightens like a bear coming out of hibernation and he tells 
us Fred Chappell stories the entire thirty miles to Greensboro. 

After the banquet, Robert Morgan invites us to join him for drinks 
over at Fred and Susan's (he needs a ride back to Winston-Salem, 
remember, and we are it). Maybe he asks Fred and Susan if we can tag 
along; maybe not. But I'll never forget the generosity with which both Fred 
and Susan offer us silly little rotten poet party crashers into their home. 
With open-hearted interest in who we are and how Robert knows us and 
what we like to read and so forth. For some inexplicable reason, Susan 
Chappell is wearing a rubber mustache that night. Fred asks her why she's 
wearing it but she won't say. He says she looks much prettier without it. 
But Susan shrugs; she likes wearing it. Fred tries to ignore it but it's 
impossible to ignore, especially when she's engaged in serious conversation, 
the thing wobbling on her upper lip with a kind of villainous distinction. I 
love her for wearing it and for perplexing Fred. I don't know Fred at all, 
but I have already decided that the folks who can perplex him are the ones 
he finds most fascinating. "But why are you wearing it?" Fred asks his 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 3 1 

lovely, playful mustachioed wife. Susan, smiling like the love child of Mona 
Lisa and Groucho Marx, won't tell. 

In this way, without either of us knowing, Fred Chappell begins to 
be my teacher. I watch him watching Susan parade her mysterious costume, 
patiently waiting for her to explain it, expecting her to do so, living with the 
puzzlement and thrill of her refusal, observing novelty in the familiar. She's 
become somebody he doesn't know, page one of a fresh story. It's a 
magnificent tittle thing, this dynamic: inquisition and ironclad mystery. It's 
the root of all art. 

1971. I'm a school teacher, living in Greensboro, not writing more 
than scraps these days, and desperate for guidance. Somebody tells me 
about Fred Chappell's legendary Thursday night workshop: all these hippie 
drum circle types sitting around in Mclver lounge chain-smoking, wearing 
berets, and talking about literature like it's a matter of life and death. So one 
hot August morning, I attempt to register for Fred's class. Tom Kirby- 
Smith, working the registration table in that sweltering gymnasium, takes my 
measure like a powerful x-ray, then gives me the bad news. "The class is 
already packed with MFA-degree seeking students," he says. Don't I know 
how famous Fred is? That people are clamoring to study with him and 
often have to wait months to get accepted into the workshop? What 
drainpipe did I crawl out of? Tom's a serious barricade, tall and official like 
a bouncer or a bodyguard. I'm tall, too, but suddenly I'm withering into the 
Little Match Girl of sewer rats, and I burst into tears and flee. 

That night, a miracle happens. The phone rings with the rippling 
golden sound of a harp. It's the archangel Fred Chappell calling. He's 
heard about my spectacle in the gym, perhaps he even remembers me from 
the Night of the Rubber Mustache. He's taught mv husband. But most 
importantly he has divined my desperation and has never met a sewer rat 
with literary aspirations that he didn't treat humanely. cc You want to sit in 
on that class, you come on over Thursday night," he says. The second 
lesson he teaches me before he becomes my teacher is that in the leaky boat 
of any writing class, there is always room for one more drowning rat. 

1972-1974. I am officially enrolled as an MFA student at UNC- 
Greensboro. I am part of the magical drum circle workshop which doesn't 
include many hippies at all, just people who have more in common with 
marginalia than the straight and narrow. We are a jumble of journalists, 
housewives (desperate and otherwise), Viet Nam vets, teachers, crumb 
bums, oddjobbers, intellectuals, cynics, dabblers, artists, and cons — but 
we're all writers or trying to be. There's Amos who wears yellow aviator 
glasses and H. Keith Monroe (what does the H stand for is what we all want 



32 FRED CHAPPELL 

to know). There's Kent, Bob, Sally, Tom, Mike and Lizzie, Eve Shelnutt 
(who we all are afraid of), Chris who becomes the first of us to publish a 
book, Candy with her straight, dark, waist-length Joan Baez hair, Lynn, 
Debby, Fambrough, and Guy Lillian, among others. It's the era of bell- 
bottoms and Earth shoes and nihilistic sneers. Viet Nam's going strong. 
Why, we ask, are we sitting around writing stories when people our age and 
younger are off dying for a stupid war? How can we justify our self- 
indulgence, we ask Fred? 

"Would you die for that story you just wrote?" Fred asks one 
author. It's a serious question that challenges us not to take our writing 
lightly, not to be trivial. 

Fred's brilliance as a teacher manifests in a kind of pithy slam-dunk 
style of criticism and sockdolager. In class, he says little during the 
discussion of anybody's story. But he expects to have the final word, and 
often it's of the lowering of the boom variety. Once, we're discussing a 
story I've written, heavily influenced by Flannery O'Connor, in which a fella 
driving a truck loaded with caged chickens destined for the slaughter house 
pulls into a gas station in the middle of a robbery. A shoot-out occurs and 
somehow amid gore and flying feathers — I don't think a person is left 
standing — all the chickens get sprung from their cages. Fred sits there 
mulling, while the class discusses the merits and flaws of the story. When 
it's Fred's turn to speak, he lights a cigarette first, draws heavily, as if for 
courage as well as clarity, shakes his head, glances at me, shrugs in a gesture 
of apology, then launches his critical grenade: "This here ain't your kind of 
story, sweetie," he says to me. "This here's nothing but Andy Griffith 
meets Superfly." How is it that, like my mother, Fred Chappell is always 
absolutely and mercilessly right? 

It's another Thursday night workshop. Ole Fred, as he's taken to 
calling himself by his mid-thirties, enters Mclver Lounge, toting the 
manuscripts he will read aloud to us. He looks burdened, deadly serious 
about our work, even if we aren't — and this is his greatest and most 
frightening gift to us. He sits down heavily, as if he wishes he had good 
news but can't promise it, casts a gloomy hooded glance around the room, 
unzips his windbreaker, lights a cigarette, waits for the room to quiet, and 
for Guy Lillian to put away his pencils. Guy Lillian is always drumming his 
pencils. 

If Fred sometimes seems uneasy, even a tad embarrassed, about the 
yoke of authority under which he labors to enlighten us, he has the wisdom 
of all great teachers never to appear defeated by the sullen or the huffy or 
the untalented. His style of teaching isn't eloquent persuasion. He goads 
and grumbles, gnashes his teeth, hoots, boos, guffaws, lays his hands on the 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 33 

muck of us and gets himself good and dirty. He has no truck with the 
smart alecks or slackers or the strutters too proud for a taste of humble pie. 
He takes it for granted that we share his appetite for improvement. 

I'm sure there were Xerox machines back then and that our 
manuscripts could have been duplicated. But Ole Fred prefers to read them 
aloud, anonymously, in a gravelly monotone. After he finishes reading a 
story, he stokes up a cigarette and simply puffs it for a while, rolling the butt 
between the tips of his fingers, studying it, teaching us more about the 
power of the pause than he probably ever realizes. 

Finally he booms out one of our names, demanding comment. It's 
a torturous roll call, but one by one, he coaxes us out. "Marianne!" he 
growls, "Tell me what you think about this story." 

Out of the hundred of stories I am required to remark upon, I 
remember my comments about only one. What I think about that story is 
that it's weak and fragmentary. There don't seem to be any characters, just 
a landscape. I don't know what it's about. 

"Well," I begin tentatively. "I don't think that what you just read is 
a story." Emboldened by the heady rush of unchecked honesty, I say with 
conviction: "Nope, it's not a story." 

In the silence that follows, I can hear the thunderous roar of ashes 
elongating upon the tip of Ole Fred's cigarette, the wind whistling in the 
caves of somebody's nostrils. Outside the dark window a leaf unhinges 
from a tree, scuttles down the air, and lands on the sidewalk. It's a maple 
leaf; I can tell by the five-pronged sound of its landing, 

The dismay on Fred's face seems to fill the room. It's as if one of 
the Presidential heads from Mt. Rushmore has broken off and is 
avalanching in my direction — that's how hard the solemnity of his judgment 
is bearing down on me: "Oh lord," he says quietly. "Oh lord." And the 
long ash on the wand of his cigarette hisses, drops, and slithers towards me, 
fangs bared. 

The room has grown so tropical that Sally Anderson slips off her 
sweater and fans herself with a book; Amos Johnson removes his yellow 
aviator glasses and eats them. Eve Shelnutt simply vanishes, as if sitting in 
proximity to such a fool has exposed her to intellectual leprosy. There 
arises from Debby Seabrooke a keening that dims the light; and Candy Flynt 
passes me a lethal dose of hemlock in a Parker pen ink cartridge. 

"If you know so well what a story is not," Fred Chappell says to me 
on that dark and stormy night, "then perhaps you can now tell all of us 
what a story is." 

It has taken me a lifetime of writing, reading, thinking and teaching 
to make a dent in answering that question. It's still as elusive and 



34 FRED CHAPPELL 

provocative to me as Susan Chappell's rubber mustache. It has no final 
answer. And isn't that the point? Fred's challenge: to go out into the 
writing life and seek better answers but not only ones. Fred slanted his 
knowledge at us students rather than beaned us with it; he inspired us to 
read with our hearts as much as with our brains; he let his wit lead him, not 
his disappointments or regrets; he knew how to laugh in all the right places. 
"There are two books you've got to read," he said to me once during a 
tutorial. "Tolstoy's War and Peace and William Price Fox's Ruby Red" 
Which of them should I read first? I asked. He glanced down at my 
scribble-scrabbled manuscript, looked back up at me, lit a cigarette, dragged 
deep of its smoky nectar, ruminated a while, no rush. His considered 
opinion was always worth the wait. "Start with Ruby Red'' he said and did 
not explain why. "Okay, back to editing." He skimmed a page of my 
manuscript and crossed out a word "See?" he said. I'd never edited 
anything in my life. "You crossed out a word." "Yep, I did. That's how 
you edit. Now you know." I nodded, but I did not know. I wanted him to 
believe I knew and so I promised myself I would learn. His genius was 
extracting promises from you that you made to yourself which happen to be 
the hardest promises to break. He was big on giving students enough rope 
to hang themselves and sometimes I did, but most writers are cats and have 
nine lives and we're capable of hanging ourselves lots of times, and still 
landing on our feet. 

I wouldn't be standing here as a writer and a teacher if it had not 
been for Fred Chappell. There probably isn't a writer in the state of North 
Carolina that he hasn't befriended or championed or mentored in some 
important way. Some of you may not know him personally. But if you get 
a chance to shake his hand, do it; if you get the chance to have a 
conversation with him, do it. If he gives you lots of rope, try hanging 
yourself with it and if you land on your feet, you'll have gained a lot. Read 
all his books and then read them again. Get to know him any way you can 
and Fred Chappell will become your teacher for life. 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 



35 




The banquet speakers — Kelly Cherry, J. Peder Zane, George Singleton, and 
Marianne Gingher, respectively — are pictured in the first four photos. The other four 
views capture the reactions of ¥ red Chappell and his wife Susan to remarks of their fellow 
literati. Ms. Gingher mimics her professor's exasperation — cigarette and all — when she 
read her first composition to Chappell' s writing class. 



36 



FRED CHAPPELL 




Fred Chappell at top is speaking on "Center of the Universe" in Cone 
Auditorium. The next four photos show the poet with Danny e Powell, Kelly Cherry and 
Burke Davis, Martin Brinkley, and Barbara Moran. At bottom UNCG Chancellor 
Patricia Sullivan chats with Fred's son Heath and sister Becky Anderson. Finally, 
Susan Chappell and son Heath laugh with Frit^Janschka. 



CENTER OF THE UNUERSE 



37 




38 



FRED CHAPPELL 




In the top four photos, Fred Chappell is shown with, respectively, James 
Applewhite, Flo Snider, Willis Whichard, and Fred's sister Becky Anderson. Next is 
Becky with, first, John Fang, and second, Michael Parker. Fhe Chappells' son Heath is 
shown at bottom alone and then with his mother Susan. Accompanying pages contain a 
sampling of pictures made during the evening 



CENTER OF THE UNUTBRSE 



39 




40 



FRED CHAPPELL 




CENTER OF THE UNIX ERSE 



41 




A Special North Caroliniana Society Award 
To William Brantley Ay cock 

In the presence of friends and former colleagues, Dr. William 
Brandey Aycock, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina 
at Chapel Hill, was presented a special North Caroliniana Society Award at a 
ceremony held in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center on 22 March. 

Dr. Judith Wegner, former Dean of the UNC School of Law, 
traced the remarkable career of the Wilson County native who grew up in 
Selma. A graduate of North Carolina State University, Aycock received a 
master's degree in history from UNC and taught in high school until World 
War II. He joined the army, rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, led an 
infantry regiment in batde against the Germans, and returned home with 
three medals for bravery — Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Legion of Merit. 
Aycock came back to Chapel Hill to study law, and even before receiving 
his degree, he was elected to the Law School faculty. For a time he was 
personal assistant to Dr. Frank Porter Graham, the United Nations 
negotiator between Pakistan and India over the state of Kashmir. Elected 
chancellor in 1957, his term of office coincided with volatile political 
activities on the campus, the most troubling of which was the controversy 
over the speaker ban law that was passed by the legislature and eventually 
declared unconstitutional. During those years, the university's enrollment 
increased from 7,000 to 9,500, and when he stepped down in 1964, he 
returned to the School of Law, where he repeatedly won the McCall 
Teaching Award and was designated a Kenan Professor. Aycock retired in 
1989 after 39 years of teaching, and he now lives in Carolina Meadows. 

Grace Mewborn Aycock, wife of the chancellor emeritus for 55 
years, died in 1996, but members of his family — daughter Nancy and her 
husband Dan Leigh, and son William Preston Aycock and his wife Alexa, 
and their families — were in the audience. 

In his acceptance talk, Chancellor Aycock reminisced about a study 
group of which he was a member while in law school. Each member of the 
quintet became intimately involved with their alma mater — William C. 
Friday as the first president of the UNC System; William A. Dees, Jr., as 
first chairman of the Board of Governors; J. Dickson Phillips as dean of the 
School of Law; John R. Jordan, Jr., as the third chairman of the Board of 
Governors; and, of course, Aycock himself. Dees died last year, but the 
others were together to celebrate the award bestowed on their classmate. 



CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE 



43 




In the top photo, current Chancellor ]ames Moeser congratulates Chancellor 
Emeritus William B. Aycock as UNC President Emeritus William C Friday looks 
on. The speaker, Judith Wegner, is in right background. At bottom, left to right, are]. 
Dickson Phillips, Jr., William B. Aycock, William C Friday, and John R Jordan, Jr. 



44 FRED CHAPPELE 

The North Caroliniana Society 

Wilson Library, Campus Box 3930 
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514-8890 

Telephone (919) 962-1 172; h'c/.x (919) 962-44 52; b<Joiics{(V.e///tii/./iin\etl/i; wmv.ncsociety.org 

Chartered on 11 September 1975 as a private nonprofit corporation under provisions of 
Chapter 55A of the General Statutes of North Carolina, the North Caroliniana Society is dedicated to the 
promotion of increased knowledge and appreciation of North Carolina's heritage through the 
encouragement of scholarly research and writing in and teaching of state and local history, literature, and 
culture; publication of documentary materials, including the numbered, limited-edition North Caroliniana 
Society Imprints and North Caroliniana Society Keepsakes; sponsorship of professional and lay conferences, 
seminars, lectures, and exhibitions; commemoration of historic events, including sponsorship of markers 
and plaques; and through assistance to the North Carolina Collection of UNC-Chapel Hill and other 
cultural organizations with kindred objectives. With an entirely volunteer staff and a motto of 
"Substance, not Show," the Society is headquartered in the incomparable North Carolina Collection in 
UNC's Wilson Library. 

Incorporated by H. G. Jones, William S. Powell, and Louis M. Connor, Jr., who soon were 
joined by a distinguished group of North Carolinians, the Society was limited to a hundred members for 
the first decade. It elects from time to time additional individuals meeting its strict criterion of 
"adjudged performance" in sendee to their state's culture — i.e., those who have demonstrated a 
continuing interest in and support of the historical, literary, and cultural heritage of North Carolina. The 
Society, a tax-exempt organization under provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, 
expects continued service from its members, and for its programs it depends upon the contributions, 
bequests, and devises of its members and friends. Its IRS number is 56-1119848. Upon request, 
contributions to the Society may be counted toward Chancellor's Club membership. The Society 
administers a fund, given in 1987 by the Research Triangle Foundation in honor of its retiring board 
chairman and the Society's longtime president, from which over 260 Archie K. Davis Fellowships have 
been awarded for research in North Carolina's historical and cultural resources. The Society also 
sponsors the North Caroliniana Book Award, recognizing a book that best captures the essence of 
North Carolina, and it confers the William Stevens Powell Award upon a senior student who has 
contributed most to an understanding of die history and traditions of The University of North Carolina 
at Chapel Hill. It provides prizes for students in the National History Day. 

A highlight of the Society's year is the presentation of the North Caroliniana Society Award 
to an individual or organization for long and distinguished sendee in the encouragement, production, 
enhancement, promotion, and preservation of North Caroliniana. Starting with Paul Green, the Society 
has recognized Albert Coates, Sam J. Ervin, Jr., Sam Ragan, Gertrude S. Carraway, John Fries Blair, 
William and Ida Friday, William S. Powell, Mary and James Semans, David Stick, William M. Cochrane, 
Emma Neal Morrison, Burke Davis, Lawrence F. London, Frank H. Kenan, Charles Kuralt, Archie K. 
Davis, H. G. Jones, J. Carlyle Sitterson, Leroy T. Walker, Hugh M. Morton, John L. Sanders, Doris 
Betts, Reynolds Price, Richard H. Jenrette, Wilma Dykeman, Frank Borden Hanes, Sr., Maxine Swalin, 
Elizabeth Vann Moore, W. Trent Ragland, Jr., W. Dallas Herring, John Hope Franklin, Betty Ray 
McCain, Joseph F. Steelman, William B. Aycock, Fred Chappell, and, on its sesquicentennial, the North 
Carolina Collection. 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS (2007) 

Willis P. Whichard, President 

Archie K Davis (1911-1998) and William C. Friday, Presidents Emeriti 

William S. Powell, Vice-President, H. G.Jones, Secretary; Martin H. Brinkley, Treasurer 

H. David Bruton, Kevin Cherry, James W. Clark, Jr., Dana Borden Lacy, 
Nancy Cobb Lilly, Dannye Romine Powell, W. Trent Ragland, Jr., John L. Sanders 

Ex Officio: Archives and History Director, North Carolina Collection Curator 

Directors Emeriti: Frank Borden Hanes, Sr., Betty A. Hodges, Edward L. Rankin, Jr., 

Robert W. Scott, William D. Snider 




NORTH CAROUNIANA SOCIETY AWARD RECIPIENTS 



1978 


I? aid Green 


1994 


H G. Jones 


1979 


Albert Coates 


1995 


J. Carlyle Sitterson 


1980 


Sam J. Ervin, Jr. 


1995 


EeRoy T. Walker 


1981 


Sam Ragan 


1996 


Hugh M. Morton 


1982 


Gertrude Sprague Carraway 


1997 


John E. Sanders 


1983 


John Fries Blair 


1998 


Doris Waugh Betts 


1984 


William C. <& Ida H. Friday 


1999 


Reynolds Price 


1985 


William S. Powell 


2000 


Richard H. Jenrette 


1986 


Maty & James Semans 


2001 


Wilma Dykeman 


1987 


David Stick 


2002 


Frank B. Hanes, Sr. 


1988 


William M. Cochrane 


2003 


Maxine Swalin 


1989 


Emma Neal Morrison 


2004 


Elizabeth V. Moore 


1990 


Burke Davis 


2004 


Trent Ragland, Jr. 


1991 


Eawrence F. Eondon 


2005 


W. Dallas Herring 


1992 


Frank Hawkins Kenan 


2005 


John Hope Franklin 


1993 


Charles Kuralt 


2006 


Betty Ray McCain 


1994 


Archie K. Davis 


2006 


Joseph F. Steelman 


1994 


North Carolina Collection 


2007 


William B. Aycock 




2007 Fred Chappell 





FOR USE ONLY IN 
THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION 



Form No. A-368, Rev. 8/95